Person in Motion
By Brad Hahn, ATLANTA TREND™

Newton's First Law of Motion taught us that an object in motion tends to keep moving. And conversely, an object that is not in motion will remain at rest unless some force causes it to move. The same thing can be said of people. In particular, Todd Bone has chosen to stay professionally active throughout his 22 year career. He embodies the Nike advertising message, "Just Do It."

Information IS Opportunity

Todd Bone has established and sold several businesses. Currently, he's the CEO of XS International, Inc., a company which provides Datacenter services including hardware maintenance, server virtualization, and the disposition of I.T. assets that have been retired. In 1990, Todd was working for a disk drive company and made an interesting observation. He shared, "Back then, disk drives had flaws on the platters that had to be manually entered into a mainframe or midrange computer. We were selling ours for use by certain systems which could handle drives with up to 50 flaws. Yet in a year's time, we received truckloads of drives with over 50 flaws which we had to be scrapped. This put a strain on the business until we figured out that other types of systems could utilize disk drives with over 50 flaws. From that point forward, we could not get enough of those "defective" drives." Perhaps more than anything else, information is opportunity for Todd Bone and XS International.

Shortly thereafter, Todd had some clients at Lockheed and Boeing who needed data acquisition computer systems for their flight simulators. "For most IT systems, the product life is 5 years or less," notes Bone. "However, the shelf life for a flight computer in a simulator is 15 years. And so, believe it or not, my clients needed "old" data acquisition computers for use in their simulators. The problem was finding the systems they needed. Even the manufacturers did not have this hardware in stock so I contacted the field engineers of the manufacturers to find out if their customers were getting rid of anything my clients needed. It just so happened they had what I needed." This move started XS International into becoming the premier provider of asset redeployment services of data acquisition equipment for visual design and simulation applications. High profile clients include the US Department of Defense, NASA, Disney, Lego, and Pixar.

"I've built a business on figuring out how to get information," said Bone. "For instance, we bid on jobs for the United States military. We needed to know how much our competitors were asking for their systems. How did we find out? Well, one source is the US Government. There's a ton of public information and so for $25 and some red tape, we were able to find out the manufacturer's price for the hardware we were bidding against from our competitor's prior business. Probably, the toughest information gathering assignment I had was when we were putting together two systems for US Army tank warfare simulators. We had secured everything we needed except for 2 $500 rare parts. Typically, we rely on our clients or former suppliers for hard-to-find items. However, my contact base did not have these parts. So I personally contacted 150 global field offices of the manufacturer. I finally found the parts we needed in demo pools at 2 different locations. We did a great job for our client. It's all about finding the information you need to succeed."

Opportunity Knocks

Each of us is presented with opportunities for personal and professional growth on a daily basis. But are we paying attention? Todd Bone is both looking and listening. "In 1999, we launched Renovo, an emarketplace for global redeployment of IT assets," notes Bone. Renovo was an aggregation of sellers and buyers for IT asset disposition, refurbishment, and redeployment. It didn't really compete with a retail play like eBay as there is a great deal more service involved with business to business intermediation and deployment of IT assets. While that business didn't acquire its second round of funding in 2000, it helped shape what XS is today. "We expanded upon what we were doing with data acquisition equipment to the broader IT community. We've built a series of global partnerships and now I'm happy to say we operate our business from a position of zero inventories," shared Bone. "There are lessons learned from both successes and failures." Recently, Todd identified and acted upon another area of opportunity in terms of systems maintenance which is a rapidly growing area of repeatable service revenue within XS International.

The IT asset cycle follows procurement, maintenance, disposition, and then remarketing or recycling. "We were active in nearly all aspects of this cycle except for maintenance," notes Bone. "I wrote a white paper on modular systems maintenance where companies can essentially swap out parts failures and then providers can talk them through installation. We contacted a few of our clients and we were off and running. People are wasting a lot of money with on-site technical support. We found a way to provide maintenance services while keeping site visits to a minimum. We offer a lower cost model to effective systems maintenance that is completely resonating with clients such as Lockheed and Raytheon." Thanks to maintenance service revenues, XS International now posts annual sales of $7M of which 70% comes from services.

A Bias Toward Action

Todd Bone is currently serving as the President of the Atlanta Chapter of the Entrepreneur's Organization, a 123 member peer-to-peer group (7,000 worldwide) whose mission is to facilitate the sharing of ideas and experiences in order to help each other grow. By definition, an entrepreneur is a person who has possession of an enterprise or venture, and assumes significant accountability for the inherent risks and the outcome. An entrepreneur is an ambitious leader who combines land, labor, and capital to create and market new goods or services. In a sense though, aren't we all entrepreneurs under this definition? Even if we work in corporate America, don't we own our portion of the business? Aren't we held accountable for its success? We are. But do we recognize the opportunities that present themselves every day? And then assuming we see the opportunity, do we act?

Many of us are constrained by inertia, conservatism, and fear which is rampant in the business community. And so I asked Todd Bone the question, what motivates him to act. He took a few minutes to think and then replied, "I have an intense desire to learn, to grow, and to experience new things. So I act. In fact, I'm probably too excited and enthusiastic to be employable at a large corporation." (Ouch, the truth hurts for those of us in large organizations!) Todd posed the same question to the Entrepreneur's Organization and received the following responses:

 

· Opportunities, challenges, change in human behavior….any change around me.

· Hope. The cool thing about entrepreneurship is that the POTENTIAL is always unlimited.

· Any issue involving a family member, employee, customer, or shareholder ... in that order.

· Understanding value ............... and that my capital is secured by assets greater than my investment.

· When I come across a challenge, opening, or opportunity that intersects with a personal passion.

· The opportunity to make fairly effortless money by taking advantage of an arbitrage or unique market situation. It does not matter what it is so long as it's legal.

· Fear of not moving fast enough

· Opportunity

· It is our butt that's on the line so fear is a major factor that drives us. Most employees never feel that fear about the totality of what is on the line for us, things like our life savings, our reputation, our vision and our employees who count on us for employment!

· My long term goals and values motivate me to act

Todd Bone also shared, "Entrepreneurs want to make an impact. They want to make a difference. They want to change the world. They want to leave this world a better place than the one that they entered. They wish to create something to channel their passions. They want to create an entity to expand their self-identity."

Collectively and individually, we are faced with dire economic and personal financial situations. And yet, each day we are presented with opportunities to grow, to learn, and to make our concerns more successful. But do we act? Remember, a person in motion tends to keep moving. Conversely, a person that is not in motion will remain stationary.

ATLANTA TREND™ expresses its thanks and deep appreciation to Todd Bone for sharing his thoughts with us.

Editor
ATLANTA TREND

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